Saturday, December 19, 2015

It Happened in England: Chelsea wins Hiddink debut, Manchester United embarassed again

Chelsea 3-1 Sunderland
Welcome to the second Guus Huddink Era at Chelsea. The Blues certainly came out on fire in their first game without Jose Mourinho at the helm. Not five minutes had passed before Branislav Ivanovic headed home a corner to put the Blues in front. Pedro headed home another corner in the 13th to put Chelsa up a pair. An obvious penalty and yellow card against Sunderland keeper Costel Pantilimon just after the second half started led to Oscar nailing Chelsea's third goal in the 50th minute. Sunderland was able to answer right away, however. Fabio Borini was gifted an easy rebound off a free kick in the 53rd minute to cut into the Chelsea lead.

Chelsea only had the three goals, but they really could have had plenty more. I don't know if it was just the firing of Jose Mourinho, or if it was because they were hosting Sunderland, but they looked like a different team than we have seen all season long. They showed more hustle and more desire than we are used to. They had pace, flair, and finishing ability like we haven't seen in the first half of the year. This was Sunderland though, and many teams look like the best in the world against them, so let's withhold judgement until they play a team with some actual credentials.

Everton 2-3 Leicester City
Leicester was trying to solidify their spot atop the league with a good showing at Everton, and Riyad Mahrez got them off to the right start. He converted from the spot in the 27th minute to give the first place club the lead. Romelu Lukaku had the perfect answer for Everton, though. Five minutes after going behind, he blasted home rebound to tie the score. The score stayed level until yet another penalty was awarded to the Foxes in the 65th. Mahrez nailed that one as well to get them back in the lead. Leicester then got some secondary scoring to pull away. Shinji Okazaki scored in the 65th to secure the points. Kevin Mirallas pulled one back in the 89th, but it was to no avail. The Foxes are five points clear of Arsenal at the top of the table, at least until Monday night's showdown with Manchester City.

Manchester United 1-2 Norwich City
It was a big day for a United legend as Wayne Rooney returned to the lineup to make his 500th appearance with Manchester United. Instead of honoring Rooney's legacy with a business like win over newly promoted Norwich, they decided to make their case for being the new laughingstock of the league. In the 38th minute, Jerome weaved his way down most of the pitch and through a bunch of pylons in Manchester United kits to score the first goal for Norwich. More absentee defending from United led to Alexander Tettey scoring a second a tht 54 minute mark. Anthony Martial began the salvage operation in the 66th minute by booting home a corner after some fancy footwork through Norwich's defense.

Manchester United are in a deep rut right now. In the last few weeks they have been eliminated from the Champions League and lost to a pair of newly promoted teams that were not expected to make any noise. Louis van Gaal is certainly feeling his manager's seat getting warmer each and every day. He is on track to be the next high profile manager to be fired in the Premier League. All that means is the Pep Guardiola could get himself paid very handsomely by any number of English teams looking for a new boss in the spring.

As for the here and now, United are out of the top four and down to fifth.

Southampton 0-2 Tottenham
Harry Kane got the Spurs party started in the 40th minute with a determined run down the center of the pitch.WIth a hop, skip, jump, and run, the Tottenham local put his side in front with a simple shot tucked inside the post. Dele Alli was in the right place at the right time three minutes later to double the lead. That was all Spurs would need to handle Southampton on the road. Spurs jumps into the top four thanks to the United loss.

Stoke City 1-2 Crystal Palace
A couple penalties were almost the deciding factor in this one. First it was Conner WIckham for Palace at the tail end of the first half. Then it was Bojan Krkic in the 76th. But Lee Chung-Yong scored a late stunner from distance to win it for Palace in the 89th minute.

West Bromwich Albion 1-2 AFC Bournemouth
Although West Brom was down to ten men after James McLean was shown straight red in the 34th minute, Bournemouth's quest for a third straight win had to wait until the second half for a breakthrough. Adam Smith tucked a low shot against his momentum in the 52nd minute. Gareth McAuley's 79th minute equalizer through a wrench in that plan, however. That was until Charlie Daniels rescued the victory with an 87th minute penalty. There was a little bit of argy bargy just before the final whistle that ended in a Salomon Rondon headbutt, earning him a red card and a slightly early shower.

Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa
A torrential downpour was kind enough to grace us with its presence throughout this one. A 38th minute corner had to navigate a deluge of standing water on the pitch to meet the foot of Fabricio Coloccini for the first goal of the game. Halftime came and the pitch was drained a bit before the players returned to the monsoon. Aston Villa managed to get an impressive aqueous equalizer from Jordan Ayew in the 61st minute. He cut inside from near the end line before unleashing a blast that left Robert Eliot helpless in goal. Newcastle is a point above the drop while Villa still sits in last place.

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